The U.S. Army has discharged a highly regarded Arabic linguist who was the target of an anonymous email “outing” campaign.
Former Sergeant Bleu Copas was stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., and was a member of the prestigious 82nd Airborne Division. A decorated Sergeant who received impressive performance reviews, Copas also performed in the 82nd Airborne Chorus. His dismissal, under the federal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual personnel, brings the total number of Arabic language specialists dismissed under the ban to at least 55. Neither Copas nor his command know who was the source of the email campaign.
“‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has become a far too effective, and convenient, weapon of vengeance in our armed forces,” said Sharra E. Greer, director for law and policy for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), which provided legal counsel to Copas. “Anyone with an axe to grind — a former partner or roommate, or an angry relative, for example — can end an otherwise promising career simply by employing rumor and hearsay. Service members like Sergeant Copas, who are making important contributions to our national defense, are finding themselves increasingly vulnerable under the law. The only way to protect our men and women in uniform from such insidious outing campaigns is to repeal ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ once and for all.”
In August 2005, an anonymous individual emailed Copas’s unit, alleging there was an online profile of a unit member identifying them as gay. Despite clear instructions that investigations into sexual orientation are only to be commenced when a service member’s command has “credible evidence” indicating the service member is gay, Copas’s command nonetheless asked him about his sexual orientation and went on to launch a full investigation into allegations about him. The command-appointed investigating officer interviewing Copas asked such questions as, “Do you work off duty with the local community theater?” and “Do you know or are you aware of anyone who believes you are a homosexual?” He also recommended conducting “an inquiry … into the possibility of further homosexual conduct by member(s) of the (unit).” Despite never learning who made the original allegations against him, Sergeant Copas was dismissed from the Army in January.
“The ban on gay service members serves no purpose except to further discrimination at the expense of our military readiness,” said Copas. “Most troops care about their colleagues’ job performance, not their sexual orientation, and this law is past due for repeal. Those of us who want to serve our country should not be barred from doing so simply because of outdated prejudice. The gay ban punishes every service member, even those who never tell and the straight troops who lose trusted, and trained, fellow soldiers.”
Since 1993, more than 11,000 service members have been dismissed under the gay ban, according to the Department of Defense. A February 2005 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that the Pentagon has fired 322 language specialists who “had … skills in a foreign language that DoD had considered to be especially important.” The report also found that nearly 800 specialists, including intelligence analysts, divers and combat controllers, were fired despite having “some training in an occupation identified … as ‘critical.'” The House of Representatives is currently considering legislation to repeal the law, with 118 bi-partisan members supporting the measure.